JEFFERSON COUNTY, Colo. — Deputies with the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office are ramping up enforcement of Colorado seat-belt laws.
Study after study has shown seat belts save lives by reducing injuries in major crashes by nearly 50 percent. Additionally, while only about 10 percent of people do not use seat belts, they accounted for nearly half of fatalities in automobile crashes in 2017.
Yet a simple law enforcement exercise near Ken Caryl on Thursday proved not every Coloradoan is getting the message.
A team of Jefferson County Sheriff’s deputies went undercover, using a three-team approach to catch violators.
“We’re just trying to get people to re-think before they drive,” says Sgt. Dan Silvia.
One undercover deputy was used to find people not buckling up. A second was used to see if those drivers were speeding. If both were true, a third group pulled them over up the road.
“Although it’s a violation and a person is required to wear their seat belt, we cannot stop them until we have another violation to go along with that,” says Silvia.
On Thursday alone, deputies found 42 people who were speeding while not wearing a seat belt. This week, they’ve ticketed 131 people.
“Most of the time, people just say they didn’t think about it or they’re running late, or they’re just going to the store or just going a short distance. And we’re just trying to emphasize that even short distances can be deadly,” says Silvia.
Most of those drivers were given warnings for the speed and a $75 ticket for the seat belt violation.
“Education is as important as the enforcement,” says Silvia. “We don’t want to hammer them too hard, we really just want them to get the message to wear their seat belt.”
Deputy Billy Brooks, who ran the speed radar aspect of the undercover operation, says he’s seen to too many tragic crashes involving people not buckling up.
“It’s when people get ejected, those are the worst ones,” he said. “It’s so easy to put a seat belt on. And it would save so many lives.”
Similar enforcement is happening across Colorado as part of the state’s annual Click It or Ticket campaign, which is funded by the Colorado Department of Transportation.
“For the next two weeks, we’re specifically looking for seat belts,” says Sylvia. “We would be very happy if we had 100 percent compliance. We could work on something else.”